Saturday, June 28, 2014

Corporal Charles Allen Davis, USMC

Charles Allen Davis was born in Gallup, McKinley, New Mexico, on 17 Nov 1922. As a young child he was raised among the sacred lands of the Zuni and Navajo. His parents were from Ramah, New Mexico, just 45 miles south of Gallup on the fringes of the Zuni reservation. 

Shalako ceremony - Zuni Pueblo, circa 1920
His family were some of the original settlers of Mormon pioneers who had relocated after first colonizing the Little Colorado River Valley of Arizona and Chihuahua Mexico. As a newly married couple Charles’ parents, Joy and Eulla Davis, operated a trading post at Zuni Pueblo. 

Charles Joy and Eulla Eliza Davis with their oldest child, Charles Allen Davis. Circa 1926.
It was during that time that Charles was born. Eventually the family relocated and operated the Crystal trading post north of Gallup. In time work would bring the family into Gallup proper, where Charles’ father ran a hardware store, owned the Oakland Pontiac dealership, and later worked for the Department of the Interior as a master mechanic. Because of their close interactions and business dealings with the Navajo, Charles’ father and his grandfather, Charles William Davis, who operated a grist mill on the reservation, became fluent in speaking the unwritten language of the Navajo.

Gallup during Charles’ youth was the hub of activity. Route 66 was being constructed, and though not yet paved completely, the Mother Road – as it would be called – was bringing travelers and commerce to this isolated corner of western New Mexico. Charles would experience this activity first-hand working at the Whiting Brother gas station at 700 E Route 66. In addition to the increased commotion of travelers on their way across the country, the city was also the hub for the Indian community; it was the only town of any size close to the Navajo and Zuni peoples. Amidst this hustle and bustle, Gallup was still a rural town nestled among a striking landscape and a Land of Opportunity.[1]

Charles Davis (right) with an unknown co-worker at Whiting Brothers Gas Station #12.
To the northeast were the Rocky Mountains and the Valles Caldera, a 13.7-mile wide volcanic caldera (crater) in the Jemez Mountains with hot springs, streams, fumaroles, natural gas seeps and volcanic domes including Redondo Peak, an 11,253-foot resurgent lava dome located entirely within the caldera. To the extreme north and west were the red rocks, pueblos, and high mesas of the Colorado Plateau. Eastward stood the 11,305 foot sacred mountain Tsoodzit (Mount Taylor). To the south, towards Ramah, stood El Morro – a sandstone cliff monument to western travelers who carved their names on the rock to mark their passage, this tradition giving way to the nickname Inscription Rock – and the forested mountains of the Cibola National Forest, where wild game and fishing was bountiful.

Zuni Pueblo, circa 1922
And so it was, at the dawn of the century, that young Charles Davis found himself in the shadows of the sacred mountains[2] of the Diné,[3] an accidental student of a future undertaking nobody would have ever imagined.

Charles Allen Davis - High School graduation, May 1940.
~ ~ ~

In the early morning hours of 7 December 1941, the peaceful Sabbath of Pearl Harbor was shattered by a surprise attack from the Japanese Empire. Following comforting words by Franklin Roosevelt, the United States was called into action to put down this imperialist aggression. And so began the flood of volunteers from every corner of the nation, lining up to serve in the armed forces. Enough of the great surge of Marine recruits following Pearl Harbor had been processed by 12 February 1942 to make the establishment of another regiment possible, and the 9th Marines was organized at Camp Elliott, San Diego, as part of the 2d Marine Division. By this reactivation, the regiment acquired its present and permanent designation, the 9th Marines.

Officers and men of the 2d Marines formed the nucleus of the newly activated regiment, Headquarters and Service Company and the 3d Battalion.[4] On 1 March, the 1st Battalion was activated, the largest percentage of its men coming from the 3d Battalion, 6th Marines, recently returned from duty in Iceland. Regimental Weapons Company and the 2d Battalion were organized on 1 April, completing the regiment and increasing its strength to 99 officers and 3,003 enlisted men.

Immediately, a training program was inaugurated to weld the 9th Marines into a hard‑striking, fighting team. During the months of May and June, amphibious training was conducted In the San Diego‑La Jolla area. It was during this time that Charles Davis arrived, having only recently enlisted at Phoenix, Arizona on 10 June 1942. Immediately following basic training at Camp Elliott Charles was assigned to the Regimental Weapons Company.

The first four days of September Charles and the other Marines from his regiment marched from Camp Elliott[5] up the coast to the new Marine Corps Base at Camp Pendleton, Oceanside. Again the regiment engaged in intensive combat training, including two weeks of amphibious exercises in the San Diego‑Oceanside area, at which Charles excelled, possibly due in part to the time he spent hunting and exploring the wild surroundings of Gallup and Ramah as a young man. During training, and later during annual qualifications, Charles earned sharpshooter, expert, and marksman badges for Bayonet, Pistol-D (dismounted), SS-Pistol (.45 ACP), and Rifle.[6] Following combat training he was transferred to Radio Company, Signal Battalion MCB (Marine Corps Base), as a student at radio operator school with a new MOS (Military Occupation Specialty).[7]

After graduating from radio operator school Charles was assigned to Regimental Weapons Company, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division. It is unknown what transpired between the late fall and early winter of 1942, but Charles seemed out of sorts. Charles had married before enlisting, and some speculation suggests that a strained relationship back home in Arizona might have provoked what was about to take place. On 23 December 1942 he was reprimanded for violating a Camp Special Order. He detained as a prisoner at large, and under Article 1 a Summary Court Martial was convened 23 December 1942. He was Sentenced to a loss of pay $27.00 per month for period of 3 months (Total Loss of Pay $81.00).

A few weeks later he was Absent Without Official Leave (AWOL) from 5:00 pm 9 January 1943 to 6:00 pm 10 January 1943, presumably returning late from a hasty visit back home. He was ordered to submit to 3 days of bread & water at his Operating Base by the Commanding Officer, 9th Marine Post. Such conduct, however, would be quickly forgotten and Charles would be awarded the Good Conduct Medal. [8]

Just weeks before the marines shipped overseas, Colonel Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., Commanding Officer of the 9th and later the 20th Commandant of the Marine Corps (1952‑1955) suggested the design for the unique "Striking Ninth" insignia. Although not authorized for a shoulder patch, it was generally accepted and remained the regimental insignia during World War II. "The emblem consists of a bald eagle with outstretched wings carrying three chain links in each claw, the motto 'Striking' on a ribbon running through a large figure nine and another ribbon lettered 'Ninth Marines' below the shield. The chain links typify the interlocked, interdependent battalions forming the backbone of the Regiment. The eagle itself and the flashing lightning represent the striking power of the regiment."

New Zealand / Guadalcanal

SS Washington, converted to troop transport USS Mt. Vernon
Sailing aboard the USS MT. VERNON[9] for New Zealand on 24 January 1943, Charles and the 9th Marines (Reinforced) arrived in Auckland on 5 February and disembarked two days later. Because of the lack of accommodations, separate campsites were assigned for each of the major regimental units; a distance of 20 miles separated Headquarters, which was located at the Pukekohe racecourse, from the most distant battalion. During a letter home, dated February 16th, Charles commented about the area, saying he had never seen such beautiful horses, but thought it funny that the New Zealanders run their “horses the wrong way around the race track.”

Jungle warfare training, several 60‑mile hikes, and practice in the seizure of a beachhead occupied the Marines time until they loaded aboard five transports on 29 June bound for Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. Ten days before that departure Charles wrote the family telling them of the rainy weather they had been experiencing and how he had been stringing wire all day in the rain: such was the life, he said, of a radio man.

Arriving 6 July, the 9th Marines landed at Tetere Village and established camp about three miles from the village. In addition to garrison duty and a five‑week period as the island working party, the regiment continued intensive training with emphasis on further jungle conditioning and patrol work to ready its men for the fighting to come.

Charles Davis at the 9th Marine's rear base on Guadalcanal

Assigned to I Marine Amphibious Corps, the 9th was part of the force assigned to hit the beaches at Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, on 1 November 1943. En route to its destination, aboard the USS Fuller (APA-7), the regiment spent a week at Efate in the New Hebrides, where it engaged in a final rehearsal, landing on a beach that was believed to resemble the one at Bougainville.

The largest island in the Solomons, approximately 130 miles long by 30 miles wide, an estimated 35,000 Japanese soldiers garrisoned Bougainville. Possessing a rugged central mountain spine, swamps, and a thick almost impenetrable, jungle, the island's few existing trails offered about the only means of land travel. The torrential rains and the abundance of jungle life, especially the multitude of insects, added to the other difficulties of jungle travel.

Like the earlier Guadalcanal operation, the Bougainville campaign was a limited‑objective assault designed to capture and defend a strategic airfield site--a vital link in the campaign to neutralize Rabaul, the Japanese stronghold on New Britain that was blocking the Allied advance up the Solomon chain. The Cape Torokina region was selected for the landing because the Japanese lightly defended it, possessed a suitable site for an air base, and was part of a natural defensive region approximately eight miles by six miles in dimension.

At 0730 on D‑Day, the landing craft carrying the 9th Marines' assault waves crossed the line of departure and headed for the chosen beaches of Empress Augusta Bay. Landing with three battalions abreast on the extreme left of the division beachhead, the regiment encountered little enemy opposition. It rapidly crossed the beaches, established defensive positions, and sent a strong patrol to the Laruma River mouth to protect the division's left flank.

The first unit to engage the enemy in fighting was the 4th Platoon of Regimental Weapons Company, of which Charles was a part, as it supported the 3d Raider Battalion, attached to the 9th, in securing Puruata Island.

The Marines encountered stiff opposition while securing the island as well‑concealed Japanese riflemen and machine‑gunners opened fire upon advancing troops. While searching for the body of a dead marine Charles was shot twice by a Japanese sniper. Both rounds struck his helmet but caused no injury; the first round struck just above his forehead and glanced off the steel surface, the second round struck crosswise in front of his eyes clipping the inner fabric lining as it hung from the helmet.

By noon of the next day, resistance on the island had ceased. Meanwhile, high surf and a steeply sloping beach were hindering the landing schedule on the Bougainville beaches assigned to the 9th by causing 86 boats to either broach or dump their cargoes into the sea. When it did not appear that the Japanese would offer opposition on the left or west flank, the 1st and 2d Battalions of the 9th Marines were moved on 2‑3 November to the east sector. This consolidation of the beachhead left the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines (3/9) on the extreme left flank. Before 3/9 could rejoin its regiment, the Japanese made their only attempt to reinforce their troops and the Battle of Koromokina Lagoon was on. [10]
Early on the morning of 7 November, four Japanese destroyers made a surprise counter‑landing on the beaches west of the beachhead, unloading about 475 men rushed down from Rabaul. Two of the landing boats, containing about 50 men, actually landed only 400 yards from 3/9's positions in the rear of its combat outpost. The Japanese tried fruitlessly to penetrate the Marine defenses and then retired into a swamp area nearby to regroup.

The 3d Battalion immediately counterattacked and, in a heavy firefight lasting about five hours, destroyed a major portion of the original landing force. It could make little headway, however, since the Japanese continued to land reinforcements further down the beach and had the advantage of the foxholes abandoned by the Marines of the 9th when they evacuated these beaches. At 1315 the 3d Marines had to relieve 3/9 because of the latter's losses in attacking an emplaced enemy in dense jungle.

Simultaneously with the counter landing on the left, the Japanese had also launched an attack against the right flank of the perimeter, defended by the 9th with the 2d Marine Raider Battalion attached. At the Piva Trail roadblock, the 2d Raiders, with the mortars of the 9th furnishing fire support, forced the Japanese to break off contact.
At 0945 on 10 November, the 9th Marines again attacked after an air strike and mortar barrage on the enemy positions astride the Piva Trail. Advancing against light resistance, the Marines moved up and dug in across the Numa Numa Trail.

Continuing forward in the divisional attack towards the Final Beachhead Line, the 9th advanced with its patrols ready for instant action, for the closeness of the terrain and proximity of the enemy precluded any carelessness. By 23 November, it had moved up as far as the impassable swamps to its front would allow. The same day, the 3d and 9th were ordered to exchange sub‑sectors, thus allowing the latter to take over the active sector while the 3d, which had engaged in heavy fighting, could take over the relatively quiet sector.

Before the exchange could be made and in order to continue the advance, 1/9 passed through the 3d Marines on 25 November and launched an attack upon a ridge, later known as "Grenade Hill" from the hail of grenades tossed down on the Marines by the Japanese. The dense jungle prohibited mortar support, and the necessity of close‑in fighting hindered the advance until the enemy decided to evacuate the ridge during the night. After occupying "Grenade Hill", 1/9 reorganized and continued the attack until the final objective, the hill mass dominating the East‑West Trail, was taken. This action ended the Battle of Piva Forks. The engagement had broken the back of organized enemy resistance and cleared the way for a substantial expansion of the beachhead perimeter.[11]
The 9th Marines, after completing the exchange of sectors with the 3d on the night of 26‑27 November, advanced on the more active front, reaching the new forward line on the 28th and sending out strong patrols. Later, advancing with other units of the 3d Marine Division, the regiment moved up to occupy the new battle lines, relieving the 1st Parachute Regiment on Hill 1000 on 10 December.

With the establishment of the Final Beachhead Line, the remaining action was confined to patrol activity. The 9th Marines were relieved on the front lines two days after Christmas, after spending 57 days helping to clear the Japanese from the Empress Augusta Bay area. Tested in the crucible of jungle combat, the Marines of the 9th had not been found wanting. Boarding LST-446, the regiment returned to Guadalcanal on 30 December. Here they reoccupied their former camp and began arduous training for a new assault landing.

It was also here that the 9th Marines received reinforcements, including a new Private, Ray Foghorn, who recently arrived having been detached from the 28th Replacement Battalion. Ray was immediately assigned to Charles’ Communications Platoon (CP). Ray was no stranger to Charles, though they themselves had never met, Charles was well acquainted with Ray’s people, their culture, and their language, which was immediately recognizable by a most extraordinary MOS listed on the Muster Roll: “Navajo - CP.”[12]

 Muster Rolls - April 1944, Regimental Weapons Company, 9 Marines, 3 Marine Division. 

From here on out the 9th Marines would utilize Navajo Code Talkers[13] for their radio transmissions.
Initially in the field Marine commanders were skeptical that such a fast, efficient communication method was completely secure, and they tested the speed and accuracy of the code talkers against more traditional methods of encoding and sending messages. The code talkers repeatedly proved their worth, and by May 1943 nearly all of the commanders in the Pacific were singing their praises.

When a message came in for a code talker to decipher, it was preceded by either “Arizona” or “New Mexico.” With this, the Japanese began to recognize that a certain type of code was being used consistently. Although they were unable to break it, they became increasingly frustrated with their inability to decipher what they heard, and their radio operators would shout and curse at the Navajo in a desperate attempt to interfere with transmissions. Japanese forces were also efficient at tracing the origin of communication signals, and all radio operators had to be skilled to set up their equipment, transmit quickly and run. Teddy Draper Sr. remembers that he “didn’t have time to shoot back” while sending and receiving messages . . .

The code . . . consisted of both individual words as well as an alphabet for things that would need to be spelled, like names of people and places. It came to include nearly 400 words, and carrying written copies into battle was against military rules. Every term and letter representation was memorized, and the code was never deciphered by the Japanese.[14]
The value of this code, and the few men that spoke it was never under-estimated. As a rule, bodyguards were assigned to every Navajo Code Talker, with strict instructions to keep them alive or prevent their capture at all costs – even if this meant taking the very life of the code talker himself.[15]
Communications Platoon, Guadalcanal – March 1944; from left to right (standing) Norman Christianson – Radio Op (Osage, Iowa), Cpl. Charles W. Burns – Telephone Op (Canon City, Colorado), Sgt. Martin Blundred – Radio Op (South Dakota), James R. Jahn – Radio Op (Montevideo, Minnesota), Sgt. Howard Miller – Communications Chief (Los Angeles, California); (kneeling) unknown, Cpl. Charles Allen Davis – Radio Op (Phoenix, Arizona), Alvin Lewis – Telephone Lineman (Omaha, Nebraska), Ray Foghorn – Navajo (Tucumcari, New Mexico).
After months of preparation at their rear base on Guadalcanal, which included practice in street fighting, the 9th was ready for an assault landing, this time on Guam. The culminating point of the training was a full‑scale division landing experience at Cape Esperance, Guadalcanal. With the final rehearsal behind them, the Marines of the 9th, now combat‑tested veterans, stood ready to lead the assault on the beaches of Guam.[16]


The largest and southernmost of the Marianas group, Guam is a peanut‑shaped island of volcanic origin, approximately 30 miles long, with a width varying from four to eight miles. A central lowland in the middle divides the island almost equally between the high plateau area to the north and the broken mountainous area to the south. The rugged terrain is blanketed by vegetation ranging from low, dense jungle to sword grass. Almost the entire island is ringed by ragged coral reefs. A portion of the western shore was the most militarily valuable sector of the island.

Several beaches suitable for full-scale landings were located on the western shore, but the Japanese defenders had painstakingly fortified these with underwater mines and obstacles. Hoping to prevent prohibitive casualties, III Amphibious Corps in charge of the operation counted on surprising the Japanese by crossing wide reefs to land on beaches, which were ringed, by steep cliffs. To add to the enemy's confusion, two simultaneous landings were to be made on beaches five miles apart. Charles’ 3d Marine Division would land on the beaches between Adelup Point and Asan Point, while the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade was to land at Agat to the south of Orote Peninsula.

Assigned Blue Beach on the extreme right flank of the 3d Marine Division, the 9th had several missions. Its first objective was to seize the ridges just inland from the beach and then, to expand the beachhead to the perimeter designated by III Corps. On order, the regiment was to drive west around the shore of Apra Harbor to link up with the 1st Brigade.
At 0740 on 21 July 1944, the amphibian tractors carrying the first assault waves of the 9th Marines started toward the shore of Guam[17], which had just undergone the heaviest preparatory bombardment yet delivered by the Navy in the Pacific. After crossing the reefs and landing the Marines on the beach, the amphibian tractors hastened back to the reef's edge to rendezvous with landing boats bringing up following waves.
Blue Beach, just above Asan Point, which can be seen at the bottom right.
Landing on Blue Beach, Charles and the 9th Marines moved ashore in a column of battalion landing teams; 3d in assault, followed by the 2d, with the 1st in reserve. Although the right assault company of 3/9 bogged down until tanks from the Regimental Weapons Company could be brought up to supply supporting fire, the left assault company swept forward to seize the ridge to its front with astonishing speed, thus gaining its first objective and throwing the Japanese into confusion. The 1st and 2d Battalions passed through 3/9 to continue the attack, but increased resistance from enemy‑occupied caves stopped the advance about 400 yards short of its second objective and the Marines dug in for the night.

Before the close of day on 21 July 1944, Charles received a mortal wound during the initial assault on Blue Beach as the Weapons Company attempted to assist the bogged down 3/9 on the right flank. The official report would describe his last actions with a simple footnote:
N 21, killed in action against the enemy, wounds, shrapnel, back and legs. No 2576, key letter “K”, in line of duty. GO20 does not apply; char Exc; 22, remains interred in grave 8, row 2, Ninth Marines Field Cemetery No 1, Asan Point, Guam.
Ninth Marines Field Cemetery No 1, Asan Point, Guam.
Both Charles and PFC. Alvin G Lewis died that day, only hours before seeing the “Striking Ninth” relieve the right flank and spearhead the assault across the island. The following morning, 22 July, the New York Times carelessly reported, “the leathernecks spearheaded two separate beachhead assaults, storming across corral-studded shorelines in the wake of a 17-day sea and air bombardment that reached a stupefying crescendo as landing craft churned into remnants of the Japanese coast defenses. Casualties were described as ‘light’ for United States forces . . . So effective had been the preparatory barrages that troops flowed ashore with negligible initial resistance and in record time, despite sprinkling enemy fire.” According to Staff Sergeant Howard Miller, Charles’ Communications Chief, such was not the case. During Sgt. Miller’s visit to Arizona to see Charles’ parents after the war he informed them that Charles had been shot and severely wounded during the initial engagement as the enemy fired upon them like the breath of hell. Charles continued to return fire on the enemy using his off hand – his right hand having nearly been taken off by shrapnel. PFC. Lewis, died with similar valor, his footnote (“P”) listed his gallantry as simply “21, killed in actions against the enemy, wounds, shrapnel, chest, both legs missing.”

With the end of organized enemy resistance, the 9th regiment went into camp south of Ylig Bay in a coconut grove and resumed training after a short rest. This training was interrupted when a general sweep of the island was ordered to seek out and destroy or capture all Japanese stragglers. On 24 October, the 3d Marine Division moved out with its three rifle regiments abreast, the 9th in the center. The sweep ended 30 October, with 617 Japanese killed and 85 prisoners, and the 9th Marines returned to its Ylig Bay camp.[18]

On 18 August 1944 a telegram was sent to Charles' parents at their former address in Gallup, New Mexico. A second telegram was issued five days later, this time to Charles' wife, in care of Joy Davis at Arizona Sand and Rock, his place of employment. The telegrams eventually found their way to the Davis home in Flagstaff, Arizona. The knock on the door was answered by Charles' second sister Mary Lou - who was barely 11. When she opened the door and found the Western Union man standing there she was shaken; telegrams were expensive, and with the war on, it meant something terrible.

During Sergeant Miller’s post-war visit with the Davis family he was unable to reveal any details about Charles’ duties during the war. Earlier, in December 1944, Sergeant Miller had sent a letter to the family which provided hints of where Charles had seen action, but that was the extent of their knowledge up to this visit.

The Navajo Code Talkers, and their unbreakable code, were still classified. It was not until 1968, nearly twenty-four years later that the U.S. Government declassified the program. However, it had been revealed so informally, that it wasn't until 1982 that the public first heard official recognition of the Navajo Code Talkers.[19] By then family tradition had been entrenched and Charles’ life as a Marine Corps sharpshooter was set in stone. It was by all accounts factual. Indeed he was a sharpshooter, as the records reflect, but he had taken an active, first hand, part in one of the most extraordinary events in the 20th century. He had protected the Navajo code, defended his fellow Marine – with his own life, and did his all to secure America’s victory in WWII – and nobody would know about it for over half a century. Maybe that explains his smirk while in his dress blues.[20]

In 2001 President George W Bush declared,
Today we mark a moment of shared history and shared victory. We recall a story that all Americans can celebrate, and every American should know. It is a story of ancient people, called to serve in a modern war. It is a story of one unbreakable oral code of the Second World War, messages traveling by field radio on Iwo Jima in the very language heard across the Colorado plateau centuries ago.[21]

[1]; Online - (accessed 25 June 2014).
[2] The sacred mountains are Mount Blanca (Colorado), Mount Taylor (New Mexico), San Francisco Peaks (Arizona), and Mount Hesperus (Colorado).
[3] Diné, the original name for the Navajo people, literally means “the People,” or “Children of the Holy People. It is used singularly as a complete name, in lieu of and not in conjunction with Navajo. In 1994 the use of the term was rejected by the Navajo Council stating that the use of the term Diné represented the time of the suffering before the “Long Walk.” However, many traditionalists prefer the original name over the common usage of Navaho, which has two correct and acceptable spellings; Navaho or Navajo. See also and "Navajo oppose name change", Indian Country Today, 12 January 1994; Online – (accessed 25 June 2014).
[4] 9th Marines, 2d Marine Division reactivated at Camp Elliott, San Diego, as an integral part of the 2d Marine Division, 12 Feb. 1942 – Lt. Colonel William B. Olney commanding officer.  3 Aug. 1942 reassigned to Amphibious Corps, Pacific Fleet.  On 8 Sep. 1942 received its final designation, besides “reinforced” status, to 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division – Colonel Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. commanding officer.
[5] On June 14, 1940 Camp Holcomb, formerly part of the Camp Kearney facility, was renamed Camp Elliott in honor of the 10th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General George F. Elliott, and became the Fleet Marine Force Training Center, West Coast.  It was located north east of San Diego, within the present-day boundaries of the Naval Air Station, Miramar.
[6] Michael D. Visconage. U.S. Marine Corps Marksmanship Badges from 1912 to the Present. History and Museums Division. Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps, (Washington, D.C.: 1982). Online - (accessed 20 Mar 2014).
[7] October 1942, Muster Roll. U.S. Marine Corps Muster Rolls, 1798-1958 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: Muster Rolls of the U.S. Marine Corps, 1798-1892. Microfilm Publication T1118, 123 rolls. ARC ID: 922159. Records of the U.S. Marine Corps, Record Group 127; Description : Roll 0544.  See image 1 and 2. 
[8] January 1943, Muster Roll. U.S. Marine Corps Muster Rolls, 1798-1958 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: Muster Rolls of the U.S. Marine Corps, 1798-1892. Microfilm Publication T1118, 123 rolls. ARC ID: 922159.Records of the U.S. Marine Corps, Record Group 127;
[9] During the war the United States Lines passenger liners SS America and SS Washington transported over 1,000,000 soldiers.
[10] Truman R. Strobridge. A Brief History of the 9th Marines. Historical Branch, G-3 Division. Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. (Washington, D.C.: 1967) Online - (accessed 20 Mar 2014).
[11] Ibid.
[12] January 1944, Muster Roll. U.S. Marine Corps Muster Rolls, 1798-1958 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007. The National Archives at Washington, DC. USA; Series: Navy Muster Rolls, 1939-1949; National Archives Publication: Ship Muster Rolls; Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel; Record Group Number: 24.
[13] US Senator Jeff Flake and AZ State Senator Paul Goshar. “Honoring Navajo Code Talkers.” Congressional Record Volume 157, Number 187 (Wednesday, December 7, 2011). Online - (accessed 20 Mar 2014).
[14] Heather Karr. “Navajo Code Talkers in World War II.” MyLIFE Magazine (Scottsdale, AZ. Nov-Dec 2013). Online - (accessed 20 Mar 2014).
[15] Laura Tohe. “Jimmy Begay July 6, 2009, Sawmill, AZ.” Code Talker Stories. Rio Nuevo Publishing. (Tucson, AZ: 2012) 27.

[16] A review of Muster Rolls for the Regimental Weapons Company, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, (June 1942 through December 1944) verified the identity of each member of the March 1944, Guadalcanal photograph – as written on the back of the photograph – including their MOS, except one. All survived the war except Charles Davis and Alvin Lewis.

[17] Terrain on Guam, which measured approximately 28 miles long by 4 to 8 miles wide, was similar to that of Saipan. There were about 19,000 fighting men on the island, who, with the five-week delay in the invasion, had the opportunity to construct formidable underwater defenses. The defenders received concentrated bombardment from American air and naval forces, including a 13-day continuous naval bombardment, the most prolonged of the war. The invasion force's objective was to quickly take Apra Harbor on the west coast and the Orote Peninsula bounding it to the south. The 3rd Division would go in to the north of the harbor, on what were called the Asan beaches. The 1st Provisional Brigade would land about five miles to the south, just below the Orote Peninsula. After beach reconnaissance and obstacle clearance by Navy "frogmen" (Underwater Demolition Teams), 20,000 3rd Division Marines landed July 21 on the Asan beaches.

[18] Battle of the Marianas (Guam) Marine casualties: 30,214 Marine participants, 1,082 were killed, 125 were missing and 4,852 were wounded.

[19] “Navajo Code Talkers and the Unbreakable Code.” Central Intelligence Agency (Washington, D.C.: 2008). Online - (accessed 20 Mar 2014).

[20] The Japanese held the high ground overlooking the landing area, and the Marines took casualties as a result. They fought back with artillery that allowed them to hit the hidden sides of the hills, and were supported by air-spotted naval gunfire . . . defeating a Japanese counterattack at dawn July 22. Admiral Soemu Toyoda, Commander of the Japanese Fleet, on 15 June 1944 announced, “The fate of the Empire rests on [the] battle” of the Philippine Sea, which included the capture of Guam in the Marianas.  “The victory in the Marianas made an American victory over Japan inevitable.” (The United States Navy in WWII, S.E. Smith, 1966, William Morrow & Co., Inc.)
[21] Bush, George W, President. “Remarks by the President in a Ceremony Honoring the Navajo Code Talkers.” (Washington, D.C.: 2001). Online - (accessed 20 Mar 2014).

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Newbury, Massachusetts - The First Merrill Homestead

Sunlight and Shadow: The Newbury Marshes. Martin Johnson Heade (c. 1871-1875).
John and Nathaniel Merrill were born in Wherstead, Suffolk, England. They were considered rural farmers of the middle class. They possessed a character sufficient in ingenuity, depth, and independence. Acting upon their independent natures, the Merrills joined the handful of English settlers who migrated to America. It can be assumed, solely on their inclusion in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Merrills sought escape from the repressive religious policies of England.

Established by charter from King Charles I in 1629, the Massachusetts Bay Company began settling the coast of Massachusetts in 1630 as both a business venture and as a place of refuge for non-Separatist Puritans.[i] Organized much like England’s Parliament, the Massachusetts Bay Company’s government operated under a General Court (Parliament) with a House of Assistants (Lords) and a House of Deputies (Commons).[ii] Between April 1634, and July 1635, as part of “The Great Migration” Puritan settlers from Wiltshire, England, began arriving at Agawam (now Ipswich) Massachusetts.[iii] On 6 May 1635, the House of Deputies passed a resolution to establish a plantation for stock grazing in the marsh lands along the banks of the Wessacucon (now Parker) River approximately 8 miles north of Ipswich.[iv] With the arrival of the first settlers to the Wessacucon plantation it was renamed Neweberry,[v] eventually modernized to the present-day Newbury.[vi]

Newbury is a coastal town in Essex County Massachusetts, situated between the Merrimack River to the north and west, Parker River to the south, and Plum Island leeward the Atlantic Ocean on the east (Latitude 42°46′00″N Longitude 70°50′45″W). In typical Puritan fashion, the town centers on a “commons,” or central pasture, meetinghouse, and tavern, with “some residences in town for the artisans, such as the blacksmiths, cobblers, and those connected to shipping. The farmer’s residences extended out from the commons, with the wealthy and prosperous having more and better land than poorer families.”[vii]

The commons was located north of the Parker River on a verdant plat of meadow at the base of the only knoll of significant height in the region, a 168-foot high promontory, surrounded on the east and west by ample acreage of salt marsh. To the north ran a grassy plain through which ran the “way,” a road (more literally a trail) that led to the Merrimack River.  To the south, across the Parker River, by way of a ferry, was a small “piece of upland, of moderate extent,” known as the Neck, “bordering on the river, but surrounded by salt-marsh on the other sides.”[viii] It was here, around 1636, that John Merrill received his land grant, relocating from Ipswich to Newbury. According to “Proprietor’s Records, folio 38,” John Merrill was granted a house lot of four acres “on the neck over the Great [Parker] River be it more or less & is bounded by John Pemberton on the east John Caley on the west the River on the north and the way [the road between the Merrimack River and Ipswich] on the south.”[ix]

On 23 July 1638 John received a house lot on behalf of his brother Nathaniel Merrill, who had yet to arrive from England. According to the deed, “There is granted to John Merrill’s brother four acres in the neck for an house lott next his brother Jno. Merrill.”[x] Around 1665, John Merrill purchased a three acre parcel from Richard Currier. Lot 24, as it was listed in the Norfolk Deeds at Salem (Book 2, leaf 110) is described as a “higgledy-piggledy division of salt marsh.”[xi] This parcel took in the northwestern peninsula of marshland at the confluence of the Parker and Plum Island Rivers, at what would become known as Cape Merrill.[xii]

The original site of Newbury, Massachusetts with the Commons, Neck, and Cape Merrill visible.
It was here, on the Neck, and in the salt marshes east of town on the north side of Parker River that the Merrill family first settled and began farming.

Around 1665, John Merrill purchased a three acre parcel from Richard Currier. Lot 24, as it was listed in the Norfolk Deeds at Salem (Book 2, leaf 110) is described as a “higgledy-piggledy division of salt marsh.”  This parcel took in the northwestern peninsula of marsh land at the confluence of the Parker and Plum Island Rivers, at what would become known as Cape Merrill.

By 1646 John and Nathaniel received the deed for several acres of grass land comprising sections of marsh which lay directly east of the Commons. This section of land became known as Cape Merrill.

Cape Merrill is the point of land on the north side of Parker River formed by the confluence of the Parker and Plum Island Rivers. It is marshland, occasionally flooded by the tide, and its crop of salt hay for many years past has been left uncut. East of Plum Island River lies Plum Island, eight miles long, its bare sand dunes extending from the mouth of the Merrimack south to the mouth of Ipswich River.

Twelve acres, at the end of the Cape, was granted by the town to John Merrill in 1646. Receiving his name it has been known as Merrill’s Point, or Cape Merrill, to the present day. Six acres of this land he conveyed to his son-in-law, Stephen Swett, and three acres to his brother Nathaniel Merrill. By a paper recorded 25 Nov. 1671, it appears that he sold “the rest of the poynt of marsh,” at the extremity of the Cape, to Abraham Merrill for forty shillings. (Proprietors Records, fol. 38, 64.)

Further review of the history of Cape Merrill reveals an interesting tale of how the name has continued through the years.

...The land at the extremity of Cape Merrill was purchased . . . from Jonathan Ela of Haverhill, the purchase price being $35. The deed, dated 16 June, 1831, and recorded in the Essex Deeds, at Salem, in book 262, leaf 146, thus describes the land: “A certain parcel of saltmarsh situate in Newbury . . . at a place called Cape Merrill Point and is bounded Southwesterly on old Town River thirty-two rods, Westerly on land of Daniel Plummer eight rods, Northerly on my own land about thirty rods and Easterly on Plumb Island River twenty-five rods containing about three acres and one half.”

The three and a half acres at the extremity of the Cape was held in common until 18 Feb. 1858, when it was purchased by Gyles Merrill, son of Moses, and it has since been kept in the family for the sake of the name. At the death of Gyles Merrill, in 1894, it came into the possession of his son, the compiler of this Memorial, who retains it as an interesting heirloom, paying annually to the Town of Newbury on account of it a tax of about sixty cents.

The addition of marshland to the holdings of the Merrill’s may speak to the extent of growth the men experienced in their farming.

Marshland west of The Green looking toward 168-foot high Old Town Hill
The salt marshes or salt prairies of the coast may be reckoned among the natural privileges, as they produce annually, without cultivation, large crops of natural grasses. The arable land[s] . . . furnish good natural pastures for cattle and sheep all the year round, and are highly esteemed by the farmers whose lands border on them, as they constitute also an unfailing source of hay for winter use and a surplus of exportation.[xiii]

Becoming freeman around 1640 through an oath,[xiv] the Merrills were entitled to own land, become members of the church, and share in the common and undivided lands surrounding the village that were held as community property. This led much to their success as farmers; originally in 1641 John Merrill had been granted “pasturage of [only] four cattle.”[xv]

As farmers the Merrill’s lived off the land, consuming daily dishes of fish, pork, wild game, turnips, bean porridge,[xvi] hasty pudding,[xvii] and limited varieties of other meats and vegetables and grains. It wasn't until 1719 and 1720 that potatoes and coffee, respectively, were introduced into the community. Eventually, as the village grew and saw mills were constructed the early dugouts and log cabins gave way to wattle and daub frame houses, and clapboard saltbox homes.

In time – around 1644 – the Merrills relocated to Newburyport, about five miles north on the banks of the Merrimack River. Here the flooding conditions of the marsh land were avoided and the surrounding area provided a greater vantage point to ports for ships carrying cargo and exports. 

Named after the family, Merrill Street can be seen just south of the Merrimack River west of the main bridge.
Over the years, the Merrills spread out through Essex County, and the neighboring countryside, and other parts of New England.

John and Nathaniel both married and had children, though John only had one daughter. This fact gives rise to the claim that the majority of Merrill ancestors in America can trace their lineage back to Nathaniel and Susanna Merrill. Nathaniel, at his death in 1654, left six sons to carry on the Merrill name: Nathaniel, John, Abraham, Daniel, Abel, and Thomas. From those six sons are thousands of Merrill descendents. 

Nathaniel Merrill - Susanna
Abel Merrill - Priscilla Chase
Abel Merrill - Abigail Stevens
Thomas Merrill - Abigail Bartlett
Thomas Merrill - Sarah Friend
John Merrill - Mehitable Hale
Thomas Merrill - Sarah Harriman
John Thomas Merrill - Sarah Phylinda Cook
Thomas "Tom" Merrill - Ella Emily Burk
Thomas Allen Merrill - Mary Eliza James
Charles Joy Davis - Eulla Eliza Merrill

~ ~ ~

In the early 1800's, just as John and Nathaniel Merrill had left England to pursue religious beliefs, their grandchildren would also feel drawn spiritually to leave their home in pursuit of God. As it was said of Deacon Thomas Merrill, the husband of Sarah Friend, so too could it be said of all the Merrills.
A friend to virtue & to vice a rod,
A moveless pillar in the church of God
On April 1, 1846, John Thomas Merrill married Sarah Phylinda Cook; she having been born on December 19, 1826, in Newburyport to John Cook and Harriet Coffin. In time they would have three children, including a son, Thomas "Tom" Merrill.
In December 1844, following a visit from missionaries who were teaching in New England, Sarah Phylinda joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; her children, Sarah Marinda, and Tom joined in baptism around 1862.
Sarah and the family emigrated from Winter Quarters to Zion in the summer of 1862 in the Ansil P. Harmon wagon company, designated the “Fourth Church Train.” Upon their arrival in the Salt Lake Valley Sarah moved her family to Snyderville, Utah in Summit County. When her son, Tom, was old enough he moved to the Salt Lake City area, making his home in Farmington, Davis County, Utah. There he met and married 17-year-old Ella Emily Burk. They would raise seven children, including Thomas Allen Merrill.
In time Thomas Allen married Mary Eliza James, and raised nine children, including my grandmother, Eulla Eliza (Merrill) Davis.

~ ~ ~

In 1884, General Lewis Merrill, in a letter to the Reverend Samuel Lewis Merrill in Springfield, Massachusetts, said this of the "Merrill stock." 
The persistence of family traits in character and appearance is very striking. . . . I have never found one of whom I was ashamed, and have known very few in whom I could not detect the facial and gestural marks of the race. They have uniformly, in my experience, been a sober-minded, honest and capable people.
From left to right, standing, Ella, Eulla, Dolly, May, Mary Eliza Merrill, and Erleen (Ezra's wife).
Kneeling, left to right, Bob, Ezra, Joe, Paul and Burl Merrill. 

[i] US History – Massachusetts Bay Company. National Repository of Online Courses: Monterey Institute for technology and Education. (The Regents of the University of California: 2007). Online - (accessed March 10, 2014).

[ii] The Massachusetts Bay Colony. 2009. Online – (accessed March 10, 2014).

[iii] Newbury – A Brief History. Essex County Massachusetts Genealogical Project. (USGenWeb Project: 2008). Online - (accessed March 10, 2014).

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Shurtleff, Nathaniel B. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England. (Boston, MA: 1853). 146. Digital - (accessed 10 March 2014).

[vi] Merrill, Samuel. A Merrill Memorial – An Account of the Descendants of Nathaniel Merrill, an Early Settler of Newbury, Massachusetts. (Cambridge, MA: 1928). 55-56. Digital – (accessed 10 March 2014).

[vii] Aboukhadijeh, Ferros. The New England Colonies. (StudyNotes, Inc.: 2012). Online - (accessed 10 March 2014).

[viii] A Merrill Memorial. 57.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] A Merrill Memorial . 103.

[xii] According to the deed, dated 16 June 1831 (Essex Deeds, Salem, book 262, leaf 146) the acreage at Cape Merrill was purchased from Jonathan Ela. The land is described as “a place called Cape Merrill Point and is bounded Southwesterly on old Town River thirty-two rods, Northerly on my own land of Daniel Plummer eight rods, Northerly on my own land about thirty rods and Easterly on Plumb Island Rover twenty-five rods containing about three acres and one half.” The land has remained in the possession of the Merrill family through 1894, when Samuel Merrill acquired the deed at a tax of sixty cents annually for the sole purpose of retaining the heirloom name of the location. To this day, Cape Merrill is the recognized name for this marshland peninsula (Lat 42.7556482, Log -70.8156061).

[xiii] Moonsammy, Cohen, Williams, Pinelands Folklife (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987), 143-144 as quoted in From Marsh to Farm – The landscape transformation of coastal New Jersey. National Park Service. (2005) Online - (accessed 24 June 2014).

[xiv] Freeman’s Oath: “I ________being by gods providence, an Inhabitant, and Freeman, within the Jurisdiction of this Commonwealth; do freely acknowledge myself to be subject to the Government thereof: And therefore do here swear by the great and dreadful Name of the Ever-living God, that I will be true and faithful to the same, and will accordingly yield assistance and support there unto, with my person and estate, as in equity I am bound; and will also truly endeavor to maintain and preserve all the liberties and privileges thereof, submitting myself to the wholesome Laws and Orders made and established by the same. And further, that I will not plot or practice any evil against it, or consent to any that shall so do; but will timely discover and reveal the same to lawful Authority now here established, for the speedy preventing thereof. Moreover, I do solemnly bind myself in the sight of God, that when I shall be called to give my voice touching any such matter of this State, in which Freemen are to deal, I will give my vote and suffrage as I shall judge in mine own conscience may best conduce and tend to the public weal of the body, So help me God in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

[xv] Currier, History of Newbury. 54, as quoted in A Merrill Memorial. 103.

[xvi] Bean porridge was made cooking beans with salt pork for several hours. Once soft, a beef hock and cubed meat was added to the beans along with additional water and the mixture was cooked throughout the day. When thoroughly cooked, cornmeal was added to the mixture as a thickener.

[xvii] Hasty pudding comes in a variety of recipes. Most commonly it consists of ground wheat, oats, or corn being cooked with water into a thick porridge-like consistency, much like today’s cream of wheat, oatmeal, or grits.